The Current State of Black Metal, Trancendental Black Metal, Negura Bunget & an interview w/ Dordeduh’s Hupogrammos
intro by BBG, interview by Kogaionon, English translation of that interview & the rest of the story by Stefan Raduta
Dordeduh with guest percussionist Thelemnar
Stefan Raduta is no stranger to the darkness. As a writer with Metal Maniacs, Imhotep, and many other outlets, the Romanian born scribe has profiled and reviewed some of the biggest and most influential names in the blackened depths of extreme music. In the following piece Stefan examines black metal and its current move toward transcendentalism and then focuses on his Romanian countrymen, black metal band Negura Bunget, and their fracture into Dordeduh. He concludes with an interview with Dordeduh (ex-NB) member Hupogrammos. The interview was originally conducted by another writer in his native tongue and translated for us by Stefan. Check it all out below…
Krallice @ Union Pool (more by Lori Baily)
I. On the current state of Black Metal
If everything in music is a chain reaction, then the history of Black Metal is by no means an exception. Starting with Black Sabbath on to Venom and Celtic Frost to Bathory, from Mayhem and Darkthrone to Watain, this genre has more or less stayed on a straight-forward path, getting more and more intense and menacing, yet having the same anti-religious views and aesthetics. Very few names have actually pushed this music further, giving it deeper meaning than Darkthrone and Emperor once did. Besides Watain, very few bands really stand for the true spirit of Black Metal today and with the overwhelming success of Wolves In The Throne Room, black metal has seemingly been pushed onto a different and irreversible path, ideologically speaking.
II. On Transcendental Black Metal and the importance of knowing its roots
Ahhh….the sight of seeing the hipsters in Brooklyn being in complete awe, bewildered by Krallice playing live. I mean, talk about a priceless experience! Kids are totally digging this new thing called “Transcendental Black Metal”, approaching it with caution at first but eventually loosing their shit over it. And yes it makes total sense because Krallice are really damn good. After years and years of searching, Mick Barr and Colin Marston – without exaggeration, two of the finest young musicians the America has to offer- have finally hit the jackpot. Just give it a few months and you will see this band explode.
But Krallice, like every other noticeable band, is the result of a chain reaction. While everyone is mesmerized by Wolves In The Throne Room‘s stunning albums, I think some fail to see the quintessential impact they’re making. They’re borrowing the abrasive, hellish sound of Black Metal, a means of expression that was forged long ago starting with Darkthone‘s A Blaze In The Northern Sky, but they’re giving it back it’s soul, it’s integrity. They stand for a new beginning, for modesty – that’s what Black Metal has been missing all these years. In 2006, their Diadem of 12 Stars was received with great acclaim, with Southern Lord getting more attention than ever. And what a serious difference a determined label can make, especially when it comes from America. Drudkh were doing this years before (they’re on their 4th album), and finally with Microcosmos they are getting the rightful attention.
But is anyone curious to know where this all began? Who really laid the foundation to this genuine, personal approach to Black Metal? I’m sure many have seen the name before. I’ll just put it like this: Anyone who has fallen under the spell of Wolves In The Throne Room owes it to himself/herself to check out Negura Bunget.
An older shot of Negura Bunget
Take Black Cascade or the best of what Drudkh, Weakling or Blut Aus Nord have to offer, put them in a blender and you can’t get anywhere close to the immense depth and lyrical beauty of their masterpiece Om. Already their 3rd full-length, many who have experienced it can’t deny that this is the cornerstone of Transcendental Black Metal.
To quote Aaron Weaver (drummer from WiTTR) from a conversation we had last year, Black Metal can be best understood as an eruption of energy from another world, from another reality, another level of consciousness and awareness. I couldn’t agree more. But in the mid 90’s when every metal magazine and fanzine had its eyes on Scandinavia, and every band was competing for the most intense, menacing and evil music possible, somewhere in Eastern Europe two musicians were using this sound as an inspiration to create something different, that pushed people’s minds beyond religious dogma or its impact on our times.
Even living in an Orthodox country, they chose not to follow trends and limit themselves just to a anti-religious statement. And it’s important to say that if it hadn’t been for Akthenaten (Judas Iscariot), who picked up their 1995 debut tape Zarnindu-sa, and re-released the album on CD format through his small but respected Breath Of Night Records, they would have probably passed unnoticed by the western world. Negura Bunget used Black Metal in a very different matter, to achieve a much higher purpose, one of spiritual enlightenment: a journey in the depths of human soul, to explore its relation to the Universe, the unseen link between man and his roots and the organic connection to the land he is born in and to his people’s culture.
Negura Bunget‘s Om
Their last LP Om is an album that lives and has its own spirit, and once discovered, you’ll always return to it. It’s where Black Metal as you know it irrepressibly split in two, and was used for the first time to create something truly challenging, remarkable and intelligent. But most importantly they approached their art with honesty and humbleness. In a stagnant scene they raised the bar of the seriousness, the gravity with which a musician can use his art. It’s a work of unspoken beauty that reaches so deep at times it becomes overwhelming, searching and dealing with issues that surpass our abilities of understanding. If you can’t have enough of WITTR‘s “Cleansing”, try listening to NB’s “Cel din urma vis”. There are parts on this album that reach absolute perfection.
But Negura Bunget as we’ve known it for the last 15 years, is no more. A likeness of the band, with the exact same name will most likely release new music, and I’m sure it will be good, but the creative minds have stepped aside after a very messy implosion. To sum it up, the drummer hired five (!) new musicians and continues under the same name, while ex-members Hupogrammos and Sol Faur, who actually wrote all the music are forced to pick up the pieces and start from zero, again.
Negura Bunget‘s Maiestrit
March 15th, 2010 marks the release of Maiestrit (on German Label Lupus Lounge), a very passionate re-interpretation of their classic Maiastru Sfetnic released ten years ago, that will absolutely blow your mind. This was always the purest black metal they ever wrote, and now they’ve perfected it. It is the last recording that will have it’s founding members on it, so it could pretty much be seen as the last real Negura Bunget album.
III. enter Dordeduh
On Saturday Jan 24th, Dordeduh performed perform live for the very first time in Bucharest, in a unique symbiosis with Thy Veils, a splendid dark ambient/ethereal Romanian project ran by Daniel Dorobantu. Dordeduh is pretty much the continuity of Negura Bunget under a new name. The two founders are using professional musicians not only for this one event, but also for the studio recording of their first EP which will be out on Lupus Lounge shortly. Personnel includes Sergio Ponti on drums/percussion (he’s worked with Jethro Tull, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Sabbat, Ephel Duath, llogicist…), and you’ll love this: Thelemnar on drums (Secrets of the Moon, The Vision Bleak) and Arioch on bass (Secrets of the Moon, Odem Arcarum). Talk about an interesting venture: members of Secrets Of The Moon together on stage with the founders of Negura Bunget…ahhh…to be a fly on that wall!
Hupogrammos of ex-Negura Bunget/current Dordeduh infamy was recently interviewed by the event’s organizer, Kogaionon Magazine. I hope you’ll enjoy this one. And let’s wish them good luck…it’s gotta be a horrible feeling to see your work of 15 years taken away from you, and having to start from scratch again.
Greetings and a happy new year! Looks like a very promising one for Dordeduh by the way: first live appearance, first EP later to be followed by a debut album, and both to be released by a very respected German label at that, maybe even a European tour to promote all of this. 2010 doesn’t look so bad…could we speak of an abundance of optimism?
Hupogrammos: Happy new year to you as well, and may it be a revealing one for us all. Well, optimism takes its shape from the way you create your path. In Dordeduh‘s case, lots of work still remains to be done to achieve the things you speak of. Our first live date should be known to the interested public by now, the EP will be ready by March, then we’ll announce the debut album’s release, to be followed by the supporting live dates.
2009 has been an extremely agitating year for you, one of severe disappointment. Following Negura Bunget’s split we see two camps having formed, each being eager to see what the other has to offer, not only structurally, but also conceptually. Do you think that what didn’t kill you made you stronger? What does the future hold for Dordeduh, from the prism of NB’s formation to its split, both ? Or perhaps we should see everything from a completely different point of view, unrelated to the past?
Throughout our personal history there’s always been a natural continuity with our past; we’re not going to make a secret out of the fact that the split from Negura Bunget has not only been the most difficult moment in our musician-related lives (and I mean Sol Faur and I), but in fact, the greatest disappointment in our personal lives. It just shouldn’t have ended this way. It’s what hurts us the most, the way it was handled. Of course these events speak volumes about how much we have to learn about ourselves from our own personal experiences, and I’m also speaking about the modesty needed to approach such teachings with, so that they can be integrated in the best way. But these events surround our personal lives. Yes there is a lot to be learned but I’d rather the listeners saw Dordeduh as a new and definite entity, capable of seeing the future and learn from the past without being neither of their captive.
Dordeduh is two people. Other than that, you’re using guest professional musicians. Don’t you think that this could be a great risk? The lack of homogeneousness, of consistency, could turn the experience into a chaos? Do you really believe in this solution – of using foreign musicians – when you live in Romania? How can you always synchronize when the time is needed?
Your observations are valid in a case like this. Without meaning to bring offense to anyone, I’m sad to notice that we’ve been incapable of finding any musicians here that would be able not only to really connect with us, but believe in this with the same intensity that we do. This aspect reflects pretty much a harsh reality when it comes to professional musicians in Romania. Very few will assume such a responsibility, to become truly accomplished in what they do, to understand that you need professional instruments and most of all, to be ready to sacrifice. That’s why a professional musician from outside can become really dedicated to a Romanian band. And that’s a sad reality that Dordeduh has to deal with right now.
How does the new music come to life? How did you work on the two songs you already finished? First guitars, then keys and drums last as always?
Usually an idea is born and then we built the musical expression around it. But this approach is not an exclusive one. There are certain parts/musical lines that are born out of the very pleasure of playing music in our rehearsal room. Many of these passages can be integrated in Dordeduh, others can’t. Concerning the two songs that have been recorded just for Maiestrit, Sergio Ponti recorded the drums. Unfortunately he’ll only be on this recording, but we’ll collaborate with him in the future. These two songs have been fully recorded by Sol Faur and me except for bass, and for that we used Flavius Misaras. As far as our debut album is concerned, the method will be the same but we’ll allocate more time actively working and rehearsing with the musicians that will be a part of it.
Describe the two new songs that will be shortly pressed on vinyl. What are their themes, which instruments do you use, what’s new, what’s changed…
The new songs and our debut will be both a continuity and an assimilation of everything we’ve ever done before musically. We’ll use the same instruments we used in Negura Bunget but also new ones. But I think the musical approach will be different now. Yes, it would be impossible not to notice a certain similarity with Negura Bunget, given the fact that the two of us wrote the music for both bands. However, our musical endeavors will also be a creative reflection to the necessities of the times we live in. Music has changed greatly in the last two years, and our means of expression have adapted, and Dordeduh will reflect just that.
What should fans expect from the Echoes From Transcendence Evening? Both musically and visually?
It would be better if they wouldn’t expect anything, haha…my advice would be to have an open mind, not blurred by any expectations, because they’ll be blown away and not due to a spectacular event, but because it will be a unique experience. Everyone who’s a part of this evening is part of a musical and cultural community that’s not necessarily bound to the artistic limits that this event is surrounded by, but rather cares of the quality, the intention and honesty of what is to be presented on stage…The shape will take its form in the moment, and this moment will be created then and there, through the pathos and the emotion of those present.
Why a collaboration with Thy Veils? This has to be the first time in Romania when dark ambient music is presented next to Black Metal….what do you have in common besides the fact that you know each other? And most importantly, do you think those present there to experience Thy Veils will understand Dordeduh, and vice versa?
What we want to create with this event should not be seen from the prism of a stylistic lens, nor an artistic one. This is the product of a group of people who have the same honest intentions beyond the differences of expression, be it artistic or cultural. I hope those present will be open enough and be ready to absorb both concepts. How can I explain to the reader that Daniel Dorobantu is a man who’s art contributes in a very generous matter to our times, but in the most subtle, beautiful way possible? You don’t need to spend a lot of time with him to understand his vision. How can I make the reader understand that the organizers of this evening truly support the artist without the desire of draining him of everything he has to offer?…that everything takes shape in an sincere act of giving, to create a moment in people’s lives that will inspire them positively? That our current drummer is one of the few people who really believes in theater, and wants to create a real Romanian artistic identity? That Jan Schwers, the sound engineer for this event, is coming just for this…. nd not because of money, but because a German can really believe in the music created by some Romanians? These are gestures that may appear insignificant, but approached with modesty and good faith they contribute to something special, without requiring acknowledgement in return….and why? Because they come straight from the heart, from a desire to create a certain harmony penciled by authentic beliefs and clean intentions. These are things that a modest artist would never really mention, just because he is not interested in getting something in return. That’s why I invite the audience not to focus on stylistic orientations, it’s not what the evening is about.
Speaking of Black Metal…Terrorizer Magazine recently released an entire issue dedicated to the genre. Om is among their ten best Black Metal albums of all times. Is it something that makes you proud? You’re right up there with Darkthrone, Emperor and Satyricon.
We are very honored that our music, our art, is appreciated in this world. Om is an album, a concept that we worked very hard at…and it seems that the story behind it meant something for people. As far as pride though…the blade has two sides. What’s important is that it doesn’t turn to self-importance.
The pride I was referring to had to deal with the fact that a small insignificant Romanian group actually had a serious impact in an international scene with such a diehard following….I mean, does that make you proud of your roots? May we hope that one day you’ll achieve the same thing under the new name, Dordeduh?
Generally for Romanians, patriotism has more negative nuances than positive ones, and that’s because of the contexts it’s mostly used in, because of the associations attached. Patriotism should be a feeling born out of deep contemplation and soul search, not out pride. One should first feel that he/she is a part of a family with a heart and human qualities that contributes to his/her nation’s esteem; a family that can recognize with joy and veneration every truth it meets in its metamorphose, because every nation has one. This word should only be used when you actually have something to talk about, it shouldn’t just be thrown around like it is today, it shouldn’t be abused. Before being proud of being a part of a nation, of a people, one should truly look within and find his true feelings towards his nation and people, any maybe see what he’s actually doing to contribute to his people’s harmonious transformation.
On March 15th you’re releasing Maiestrit/Maiastru Sfetnic reinterpreted under the name Negura Bunget. What’s to expect from this last classic formula release?
The idea of recording Maiastru Sfetnic again came as soon as we got out of the studio where we originally recorded it. An artist always knows how much he’s managed to achieve out of what he’s planned to, if he’s of course to relate to a objective evaluation rather than to one that will offer him certain circumstances. We’ve always known that this album would be one that will fully reflect not only our emotions, but also one that would embody our own vision of Black Metal. To us, Black Metal, laid down, has to be impeccable and our material at the time was far from that. However even now we can’t say that we’re fully satisfied, especially since it was conceived in an original formula and then finished by Sol Faur and me. The public should also know that besides drums, everything on this album has been recorded, reinterpreted, composed and mixed after the split from Negura Bunget. Besides the 6 original tracks there are also two acoustic versions of “A-vant in abis”(Forward in to the abyss) and “Plecaciunea mortii” (Death’s bow). These two songs were also written after the split. So the idea of a last classic formula release is a bit exaggerated, since everything Negru did was to just lay down the drums. However, what is not exaggerated is that Maiestrit is the last Negura Bunget album ever. The listener should now be able to better understand what this album meant for us when it was conceived and released. It should however be “judged” beyond the animosity that has stained this band’s name.
Left to Right: Hupogrammos, Sergio Ponti, and Sol Faur recording Dordeduh
You’ve recently announced another project that is taking shape…From what I hear I’m bloody stoked. Please tell us more
Yes. The project’s name is Sunset in the 12th House. By the end of this summer our first EP will be out, it will have two songs. It’s also Sol Faur and myself at it’s core, but we’ll be using artists we’ve met throughout our 15 year existence with Negura Bunget. These people come from different musical and cultural spectrums, and the music will reflect that. Hard to speak of a stylistic approach now. You’ll hear a lot of unusual instruments and very diverse influences coming from where these instruments were created. I could say that this rather exotic approach will start from the neo-folk area, going through roc and eventually metal. The common element that the listener will find both in the music this project and Dordeduh is the interest in the esoteric aspect of the human being, in the spirit that gives life to everything that is in this universe, as well as the soul knitted in the aftermath of the human experience.
Negur? Bunget – Cunoa?terea t?cut?
Negur? Bunget – Norilor
Negur? Bunget – Primul OM
Negur? Bunget – An Interview with Hupogrammos